Today I Read…Everyone Loves Bacon

Image result for everybody loves bacon kelly dipucchioToday I read Everyone Loves Bacon written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight.

Bacon is pretty great. He’s funny, and talented, and he smells nice, and everybody loves him. Except French Toast, because French Toast doesn’t like anyone. But some people like Bacon a little too much…

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This one is destined to be part of the birthday gift for the Trickster Baby, as well as Do NOT Open This Book. I bought it because bacon, which I maintain is a reason in and of itself. I rather enjoy this bacon renaissance we live in, and all fo the bacony goodness it has produced. The Bacon Sundae I’ve tried was actually pretty good, though the Bacon Potato Chips were a little disappointing. Adults who love bacon will find this picture book hilarious. Children, well…if they understand the twist at the end, it is actually kinda dark. At least, it is for bacon. I think you can guess what happens when someone really loves bacon? And it’s breakfast time? The illustrations are charming, of the other foods who love Bacon, and the diner they live in. Special shout-out to the Canadian Bacon in the toque who wonders why he isn’t loved as much as Bacon, since I am Canadian–sorry, CB, but you’re in an American diner and they just don’t understand you the way we do up North. I’d read this to older kids, around grades 1-2, who get why the ending is funny, because everyone really does love Bacon.

Hm, I wonder what’s in the fridge…

Today I Read…Do NOT Open This Book

Image result for do not open this book andy leeToday I read Do NOT Open This Book written by Andy Lee, and illustrated by Heath McKenzie.

Look, this is really simple. Don’t open this book. Just put it down and go read something else. It’s nice out, don’t you want to play outside? No? How about…a puppy! Yes, if you go outside right now, a puppy will be waiting for you!…A puppy with ICE CREAM!…Look, I’m begging you, stop turning the pages or else something really awful is going to happen…Stop, please…Oh no!…

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I love interactive picture books, especially ones like this where the adult reading it can really make it a performance. I ADORED The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak when I first discovered it at an OLA Super Conference a few years ago, and so did every class I read it to at my elementary school as soon as I bought a copy. This book I found at the bookstore as I was hunting for a gift for the first birthday of a friend’s child, and given how contrary the father can be, I had to get this one. (Seriously, if the world falls to a trickster/evil overlord in about 20 years, it’s going to be this kid, so might as well start buttering him up early.)

The premise is about, as is obvious from the title, a blue monster who begs the reader not to open the book, and then to stop turning the pages, or something terrible will happen (I won’t spoil it by telling you what). He rants and he raves and he begs and he tricks, but the pages just. keep. TURNING. The lettering is great, and keeps changing font size and some bits are all capitalized to add emphasis while Blue Monster is speaking , which is useful both for when the adult is performing the book for a child audience, and to use to teach learning readers about voice and emphasis. The illustrations are clean and charming, mostly of Blue Monster himself in various poses and emotions as he pleads for the turning to end.  This book is simple yet entertaining. Hmm, I wonder if I should go pick up another copy for Tiny Niece and her brother Giant Nephew. I mean, it’s not spoiling if it’s books, right?

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Today I Read… My Dad Used to Be So Cool 

Image result for my dad used to be coolToday I Read My Dad Used to Be So Cool written and illustrated by Keith Negley.

My dad used to be so cool. He was in a band! And he had a motorcycle and tattoos and I bet he had so much fun. Now all he does laundry, and he vacuums, and he ties my shoelaces, and he takes me to the park. I wonder what happened?

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I found this picture book at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May (yes, I think it’s obvious that I’m behind on posting). The author also wrote Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, which I also really liked, about how men in stereotypical male jobs like superheroes and firefighters have emotions that they can express. However, since I saw these before Father’s Day, obviously I had to get copies to troll my brothers in law.

This is a cute picture book, all about the kid musing on how his dad used to be a really cool rock star, and he doesn’t understand what changed to make his dad so boring. Through the art, we see dad taking care of his son and the home. The drum set is in the closet, the skateboard is on the wall, the motorcycle is for sale. We also see a big pull out spread of Kid and Dad playing at the park, chasing each other all over the playground, and then finally wading out into the water together. Maybe dad is still a little bit cool. But then he rocks out in the car,  which is SO EMBARRASSING! This is a nice representation of dad being perfectly  competent at taking care of his home and child, and showing that dad may still have tattoo sleeves from when he was younger but they have no bearing on his ability to nurture. It’s a nice demonstration of a step away from traditional gender roles, showing a more modern family. We don’t know if he’s a single dad, or if mom is away at work, or if there’s a second dad away at work, or what the rest of the family looks like, and it doesn’t matter. Dads do not always have to be the incompetent buffoon whose mistakes mom has to fix, and they don’t have to be the one who can fix your bike but not your sandwich, and it’s nice to see that sometimes.

Still gonna troll my brothers in law and tell them they can remind my nieces and nephew of when their dads used to be cool though. After all, what else is family for?

Today I Read…My First Book of Girl Power and Batman’s Hero Files

my-first-book-of-girl-powerToday I read My First Book of Girl Power and DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files by Billy Wrecks, illustrated by Erik Doescher.

Girls are strong and smart and brave and kind. They can be heroes! Come and learn about some of the DC Super Heroines.

And: Batman likes to know everything. He keeps files on all of the Super Friends and their special Super Powers. Let’s read his files together!

Tiny Niece has started to like Superman and Batman, and as her Nerdy Auntie I feel it is my duty to encourage this. Especially Superman, who is better than Batman. But as her Feminist Nerdy Auntie, I really want her to know some of the female super heroes–Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman, who don’t have the same overwhelming amount of merchandise as the boys do. I deliberately went looking for some books featuring the female super heroes (and maybe bought some of the DC Super Hero Girls dolls, which are pretty cute and bend better than Barbie). But books with the girl heroes are actually pretty hard to find. There was one book I looked at that had 4 stories about Marvel’s Avengers, and in those 4 stories the only female character mentioned by name was Pepper Potts. And she had to be rescued. And there was one drawing of a random female bystander who also had to be rescued. Now, there have been tons of female Avengers over the years, and even the movies have Black Widow (although not my Black Widow movie, I wants it, I wants it, where is my Black Widow movie?!?) But there is nary a girl to be found in the board books and early readers I was looking at, at Chapters and the independent comic store. And as much as I enjoy the DC Super Hero Girls, it’s really aimed at an older age group than my Tiny Niece, who is just turning 4. The rare books that do include a girl hero, the ratio is usually about 1 girl character for every 5-6 boy characters. I wanted a book with a fair ratio of girl to boy characters. I ended up getting this book, which is only about girl heroes, and an early reader DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files. That one has Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, with Wonder Woman and Batgirl (Supergirl not included). And there are at least pictures of Catwoman and Cheetah, though none of the villains are named.

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They’re both good books, which describe the various hero’s powers. Girl Power is a board book, and it only has a maximum of about 3 sentences per page. The language is fairly advanced, and it’s more for an adult to read to a child. Batman’s Hero Files is a reader, intended for children who are learning to read on their own, so it uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, although I’m not sure who decided ‘indestructible’ is basic vocabulary. And I do like that Girl Power emphasizes that being smart and brave and kind are qualities as worthy of praise as being strong. Hawkgirl is posed with her mace, but her description talks about her healing abilities. Batgirl likes to read books and program computers. Mera likes to explore new places. It would be nice if they included some heroines of colour–at least Batman’s Hero Files feature a black Green Lantern and Cyborg, but I guess I’ll have to be happy with baby steps of representation.

So yes, I absolutely have an agenda regarding promoting super heroes to Tiny Niece. I love superheroes. I love stories about people who try to save the world. But I want Tiny Niece to grow up to realize that she can be a superhero too, and not have to always be rescued.

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Today I Read…Toot and No No Yes Yes

Today I read No No Yes Yes and Toot, written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli. She is the same artist who illustrated the Mini Myths books by Joan Holub, which my Tiny Niece adores, so I was really interested in checking out her writing as well. These two in particular are going to be part of the Christmas present for Tiny Niece and her younger brother Giant Nephew.

Normally I summarize books in these reviews, but the titles pretty much summarize them for me. Toot is about, well, tooting. Because fart jokes are hilarious to the under 5 crowd. I fully anticipate this will be a big hit with the kids when I pull it out and read it to them on Christmas Day. Their parents may be somewhat less thrilled, but hey, isn’t the point of gifts for your nieces and nephews to annoy your siblings? I’m pretty sure that’s the purpose of noisy battery-driven toys. And while this book isn’t battery operated, it does provide the chance to make sound effects. Toot! In all seriousness, it is also good for normalizing bodily functions, and it does point out that everybody toots, even mommies and daddies and doggies. Though there is still some question about whether Fishy toots.

No No Yes Yes straddles that fine line between providing useful instruction and giving kids bad ideas. I’m sure that the scenarios in the book will all be very familiar to anyone with a toddler in their life. The language is as simple as possible, and can be used for teaching opposites as well as proper behaviour. For each double-page spread, one page is a ‘no no’ activity, like drawing on the walls, pulling kitty’s tail, and putting your toys in the potty. The opposing page has a corresponding ‘yes yes’ acceptable activity, like drawing on paper, petting kitty nicely, and pooping in the potty. Hey, toilet jokes are the next step up from fart jokes. Since Giant Nephew just hit the Terrible Twos, I’m hoping that this book might help a bit, especially the “no no” page for hitting other kids with a toy hammer. Even if it does make a funny “thunk!” sound.

I love the illustration style, simple and bright, with the same non-gendered protagonist. These two are my favourites, but Patricelli has a whole series of board books. Here’s hoping that Giant Nephew loves them as much as Tiny Niece loved Play Nice Hercules and Be Patient Pandora. Well, maybe not quite so much, reading the same book 6 times in a row is enough, right? Right? Tiny Niece, can Auntie read a different books ye–no, no she can’t. Ok sweetie.

Reblog: This Public Library Figured Out The Perfect Way For Teens To Find Self-Help Books

This Public Library Figured Out The Perfect Way For Teens To Find Self-Help Books

A friend of mine shared this, and it’s such a great idea. A librarian at Sacramento Public Library came up with a way to help teens wanting information about personal issues who don’t want to share those issues with a stranger, or even a librarian they know. If you haven’t clicked the link above, he came up with a poster listing some common topics that teens might want information on, with the Dewey Decimal numbers beside them so that the teen doesn’t have to ask for help finding them. The nice thing about DDC is that the numbers are all in order, and every library marks their shelving units with the numbers that the specific shelves hold to make things very easy to find. Even if you don’t know how to find something, you can easily ask a librarian for a lesson in finding things in general without needing to be shown exactly the subject you’re interested in, and most public libraries in Canada and the US use DDC so it is the same numbers for the same subjects in most libraries.

This is a really good way to protect privacy while still helping people find the information they need. Not everyone has internet access to find things out online, plus there’s the question of the quality of information available there, and one of the tumblr commenters in the image makes the excellent point that parents or siblings might be able to check your browser history on a home computer. The sign even recommends using the self-checkout machines for added privacy, so there’s no one handling your books and looking at the titles.

I think I might add bullying and cyber-bullying onto the list, though, since they’re very important issues right now that teens (or people of other ages, for that matter) might be dealing with. Can you think of anything else? Leave a comment with any other important topic suggestions.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Books!

On March 24th of this year I found out I was running a book fair–on May 1st. I admit, when I opened that box and found out, there was a lot of “I’m doing what? WHEN?” I’d never run a book fair before, or even a major event by myself, though I’ve been part of running conventions for years, so it was a little intimidating, especially since the Battle of the Books was already coming up in April and my teams had to finish training.

I began by immediately signing up for the Scholastic book fair webinar, and I should say here how helpful Scholastic was, especially my liaison Vanessa. They have webinars, guides, online reproducibles and forms and letters and web art that you can use, and all sorts of bonuses and promotions and sample boxes of books. They make it as easy as they possibly can for someone to set it up and start selling.

The theme Scholastic had decided on for the book fairs that year was the Kingdom of Books, and I love fantasy so I was perfectly happy to run with that (plus, why do extra work to come up with a new theme when all of the signage, web art, etc. had already been made?). I started planning out what needed to be done, what I wanted to do extra, what materials and help I would need, and when everything needed to be done by. I had a million ideas, but only so many could realistically be done. And of course, everything had to be done in between my regular work, and the Battle of the Books, and the normal school operations.

To promote the Book Fair, I got some of the students to make posters which we scattered around the school, as well as putting up the official posters that Scholastic had sent. I wrote short scripts that the students read over the announcements in the morning, talking about different books that would be sold at the book fair. I gave the Book Fair details to the office to be included in the newsletter home to parents. I read the sample books provided by Scholastic to the classes during their regular storytimes. I ran four art and story contests, with the winners picked by a panel of teachers and myself. They each got to pick out one free item from the Book Fair, from a promotion allowance that Scholastic provided.

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Book Fair contest winners (on right)

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More Book Fair contest entries

 

Everything was delivered on May 1st, and I had to completely transform my library. I received both rolling bookshelves that could be opened with the product was already on it, and boxes full of books that had to be arranged on table as well as setting up the signage. My thanks to the grade 8 students who helped me move tables and drape tablecloths and put out books and get everything set up (they were so sad to miss French, of course). I put up the poster display, arranged the display of bookmarks, highlighters, pens, erasers, etc., and set up the checkout tables with the credit card machines, reorder forms, signage, etc. that they needed. I created a playlist that I had running during the Book Fair (mostly Heather Dale and Loreena McKennit, with the Wicked, Shrek: the Musical, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella soundtracks mixed in. They were the most fairy tale-ish music I had).

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The Book Fair when you enter the library

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Impulse items table

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Minecraft! and other stuff

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Poster display

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Activity center

I also set up a small activity center for the kids to play in. My sister donated a cardboard castle, and I purchased some fairy-tale themed dress-up items (inside the red treasure chest in the pictures) using my own money–tiaras and fair wands, a knight’s armour set, a wizard’s hat, etc. I do have pictures of the kid playing with them (especially the bigger kids), but the school’s photography policy means I can’t post anything here with the kids’ faces or names. But you can take my word for it, they’re pretty funny. And I may or may not have gone around for the week wearing a crown. Hey, if the crown fits…

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Activity sheets and storyboard

I set up a small table with colouring and activity sheets and crayons. I also made a storyboard set. I printed off the web art that Scholastic had created, found a background image I liked on Google images and printed it too, coloured them, laminated them, cut them out, then stuck everything on a whiteboard easel with sticky tack. It came out quite nicely, and other than the sticky tack it was all materials I had around the library.

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Storyboard I made

All together, the Book Fair was open for one week, with a teacher preview on the Friday it was delivered, the next Monday and Tuesday were viewing days so the kids could make a list of what they wanted and show their parents before bringing in money, and the Wednesday and Thursday were the main buying days (though if anyone wanted to purchase their books before Wednesday, I certainly didn’t turn down money). Friday morning everything had to be packed up and ready to return. I opened early Wednesday morning for parents who dropped off their children in the morning, and Thursday night was the school open house, so I held a family event then for parents to come and shop for books. I actually ended up being at the school on Thursday from before 8 in the morning until after 10:30 at night (less the half-hour I took to go get a pizza, of course. Gotta have fuel). I had recruited a parent and a teacher and more than 20 students to work during the family event, to keep everything tidy and answer questions and cash people out, and it was still  insanely busy.

Book Fair money nonameBut at the end, I was very pleased with the results. We passed the goal I set! I set a goal of $5000, and we made $6296.15 gross. Hooray! Lots of new books for the library, and lots of new books that the kids got to keep! Talk about a win-win!

Looking back, there are things I would do differently if I had to do it again. While the kids were excited to volunteer and help out, I really needed an assistant to help watch them and make sure everyone was doing their designated job instead of goofing around. I could have emphasized a little more that they were there to work. The organization of the announcements could have been a little tighter. The classroom wish list program wasn’t terribly successful.

That said, I’m very proud of what I accomplished. I surpassed my sales goal. I planned, organized, promoted, set up, ran, and tore down the book fair, and I did most of it by myself. I think everyone who attended had fun, and most of the students bought something. It was definitely a challenge, but one I met, and ultimately it was a great experience. Now let’s see what my next challenge will be…

 

Another 50 Books Pledged

 I’ve set myself a new challenge for 2015, and I invite everyone else to join me. For the third year in a row, I’ll be participating in the 50 Book Pledge.

In 2013 I read 148 books and in 2014 I managed an even 500 (yes, I count picture books, they’re books and HarperCollins lets you include them on the list. The number would be truly ridiculous if I included all the fanfic I read, and no I still don’t have a reading problem I have a lack of shelf space problem.). I’ve pledged to read 200 books again, since that’s the highest number it will let you pledge for, though it will count the books you read after 200. You just can’t get badges for any amount over the 200–maybe something to fix in the future?

I’ve discussed the website before here and here, and they’ve updated the website again with a few more welcome changes. They’ve added some shelves for Currently Reading and Favourites, and your Currently Reading items show in a sidebar. You can also add a custom shelf if you feel like it. Otherwise, the site is pretty much the same as last year, but it works fairly well. It’s still nice that you can look through previous years’ shelves to remind yourself what you’ve read.

You can find my 2015 shelf here, and I’d love to see your shelves in the comments! What books re you most excited for in 2015?

Today I Read…Made You Look

Today I read Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon and illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux, the revised edition.

Made You LookHow many ads do you see in a day? Where do you see them? What are they for? How do they influence you? And why should you care?

Ads are everywhere in our everyday life, and they target you from birth to death, trying to sell you everything under the sun. Sometimes ads tell you important things like public awareness campaigns, and sometimes they just want to buy stuff you don’t really need. The important thing is to be a critical consumer–to think about ads and what they are trying to do and to make up your own mind. For a well-balanced look at an industry that effects and targets kids from a very young age, Made You Look is a great resource for kids to explain the ins and outs and tips and tricks of advertising, with funny and thought-provoking illustrations from Michelle Lamoreaux to accent the text.

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Sorry, I’ve been having laptop troubles, and I finally had to get a new one. Windows 8.1 is awfully finicky, though. Any tips to make it less sensitive and stop changing windows on me?

This is one of the books that I got from the OLA Super Conference this year. The cover grabbed my attention, with the confused look and the sea of advertising that the figure was surrounded by–it certainly feels like that sometimes, especially since I was in the middle of a trade floor at the time, where there were a thousand people present with booths all designed to sell things to librarians. Books, furniture, archival supplies, databases, library schools, magazines, audiobooks, ebooks, graphic novels, book-themed merchandise…we wee there because we were librarians, and the products that they were selling were of interest to us, but it’s very crowded with a lot of things to see all at once.

I really enjoyed this book. The language Graydon uses is plain and direct, and she poses a lot of hypothetical situations and simple experiments that encourage the reader to think about their own experiences and to recognize the effect that advertising can have on them. It points out different strategies, like using celebrities or cute cartoon characters to connect to kids, or showing toys dong things they can’t really do or with lots of accessories that are sold separately and can greatly increase the price of a toy. She uses charts to compare the arguments for and against advertising, explains some of the history of advertising and the laws and how they’ve changed over time, and lists some of the words ads use to persuade someone buy something and why they work. The cartoon-style illustrations are colourful and funny, but also do an excellent job of enhancing the text and illustrating the point in a different way (pun intended). This would be a great school library resource, or a book for a parent trying to show their child another way of thinking about advertising. It’s especially apropos at this time of the year, when advertising to children is ramped up so much, between Black Friday and Christmas.

Today I Read…The She-Hulk Diaries

PrintToday I read The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta.

Jennifer Walters is taking control of her life. She’s had some problems recently, in large part thanks to her big, green and sexy alter-ego She-Hulk, but she is ready to overcome all that and get what she wants out of life. Not by making New Years Resolutions–people never stick to those. No, she’s going to be totally sensible about this–she’s gong to make a list of goals to achieve before Valentine’s Day–ok, April 1st. No point in making unrealistic deadlines, right?

Things seem to be going pretty well–Jennifer’s made a new friend, joined a new LARP group, got a new job at a prestigious law firm, met a potential friend-with-benefits, and met a potential dropdeadsexy! boyfriend. Oh, and she’s reconnected with Ellis Tesla, the scientific rock god who got away and the hottest one night stand she’s ever had. Except he’s her new boss’ son, is engaged to the witch of the office, and is best friends with the man she’s trying to sue. And he never called her! So what’s a smart, sensible, ambitious lawyer-and-occasional-secret-superhero to do?

Why, save the day, of course!
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I admit, when I first saw this book I pretty much thought it was Marvel trying to move into superhero chicklit. And it is, but it’s really good, smart superhero chicklit. In a way, it’s almost subversive of the chicklit genre. Jennifer wants a boyfriend, yes, but that’s only one of her goals, and she wants everything on her list. She wants her life to be well-rounded, to have a great career and great friends and be culturally aware and to be madly in love with someone who is her equal. She doesn’t want to stop doing anything she enjoys, she wants to add to it. While Jennifer has her issues with She-Hulk, she doesn’t even really want Shulky to change, just to change the way that Shulky is affecting her, Jennifer’s, life. Shulky is big and loud and confident and scantily clad and a party-girl and sexually aggressive–everything that Jennifer doesn’t think she is, except that she is when she wants to be. Ellis Tesla loved ‘Gin’ years before Shulky was created. Jennifer Walters is one of the most respected lawyers in New York–her employment difficulties tend to be more connected to her secret superhero identity than her actual job performance. She is universally acknowledged to be a powerhouse in the courtroom. Jennifer wants balance in her life, and she wants to have it all, and she is determined to find a way to get it.

Another thing that struck me was how sex-positive the book was, particularly in light of David Goyer’s recent appalling (and stupid) comments about She-Hulk. Shulky is never slut-shamed for her sexual appetite, she is not predatory or aggressive. She is confident in her sexuality and goes after what–or who–she wants, and while Jennifer wishes Shulky would stop letting her wake up in strange places she never looks down on Shulky for her actions. Jennifer herself has a healthy sex drive–she considers a coworker’s friends-with-benefits proposal to see if they would be good together and if it will work with her goals for her life. She enjoys sex, and she thinks sex with him would be fun, but is it what she really wants?

I haven’t read too much about She-Hulk before this book. Marta Acosta’s take on her is a smart, savvy, sexy woman, green or not, and I think I need to read more. This is a great introduction to the character, and non-comics-reading-female-friendly, while never descending into the worst of the stereotyped chicklit depths.

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VALENTINE’S DAY RESOLUTIONS

I, Jennifer Susan Walters, being of sound mindand body bodieswhateverdo promise to try to achieve the following life-improving objectives beginning February 14:

1. Stop hanging around the loft playing online games (take sabbatical from Skyrim, BF3, Massive Threat, etc.) and get a new job as myself: apply to my five top dream legal firms. Update CV. Replenish business wardrobe with clothes that can survive hulking out.

2. Meet an actual human man and establish an actual relationship. He should: (a) be employed, (b) have a sense of humor, (c) like me no matter how I look that day, (d) not be attempting to rule the galaxy, and (e) be considerate (e.g., remember to put the toilet seat down). Cancel account with Smingles.com because they match me with smorons.Stop Severely restrict Moderate cyberstalking and crank calling exes.

3. Have arealdate on Valentine’s Day: flowers, lingerie, the whole deal. Going out for burgers with my cousin again DOES NOT COUNT.

4. Seek balance in work environment and social life. Have funandlearn how to speak up for myself without doing anything that will get me fired. Participate in more activities and get more culture: buy membership to Met, go to opera, ballet, and theater. Join a book club?

5. Stretch outside my comfort zone. Don’t automatically reject opportunities to do something new and different especially if there’s a chance to meet friends/boyfriend.

I’m totally psyched to take control of my life and I’m determined that my new year will be the best one yet!